40% Of Youths' TV Viewing Migrates To Streaming Video

According to Marketing Charts Editor, JC Lupis the latest quarterly TV viewing figures from Nielsen have been issued, providing more than 5 years’ worth of quarterly data on Americans’ traditional TV viewing habits. As has been well established, youth as a whole are watching less traditional TV.

Traditional TV Viewing Trends Among 18-24 Year Olds (Weekly time spent in hrs:mins)


























Source: analysis of Nielsen data, July 2016

Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report” indicates that Americans aged 18-24 watched a weekly average of 16 hours and 18 minutes of traditional TV during Q4 2015. That represents a year-over-year decline of roughly one-and-three-quarter hours per week. In other words, 18-24-year-olds as a group went from watching about 2 hours and 35 minutes per day during the first quarter of 2015 to about 2 hours and twenty minutes per day during Q1 of 2016.

Between 2011 and 2016, Q1 traditional TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by more than 10 hours per week, or by almost one-and-a-half hours per day. In percentage terms, Q1 traditional TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds was down by almost 10% year-over-year and has now fallen by 38% since 2011. In other words, in the space of 5 years, almost 40% of this age group’s traditional TV viewing time has migrated to other activities or streaming, says the report.

Traditional TV Viewing, by Age Group (% Change in Weekly Time Spent; Q1 2016)

Age Group

% Change Y-O-Y

% Change Over 5 Years



















Source: analysis of Nielsen data, July 2016

The drop-off in viewing among 18-24-year-olds is just as large when looking just at persons in TV households (TV viewers). Among 18-24-year-old viewers, the Q1 2016 average of 82 hours and 16 minutes per month was down from 93 hours and 19 minutes per month during Q1 2015, representing a drop of more than 11 hours per month, says the report.

Losing traditional TV viewing due to a decline in reach (with cord-cutters/cord-nevers likely to blame) is one thing; losing consumption due to less viewing among TV users is another, concludes the report. Overall, the per-day decline among 18-24-year-old viewers of around 22 minutes is larger than the viewing drop among the 18-24 population overall (roughly 15 minutes per day).

That could be considered the major trend from this quarter’s study, observes the report: traditional TV viewing declines have seeped into the young TV viewing population, to the extent that the viewing drop for this demographic is no longer being primarily driven by cord-cutting or cord-nevers.

Of course, there are other age groups of interest when analyzing traditional TV viewing, including teens (a potential leading indicator) and older Millennials (aged 25-34), who might be more apt to watch traditional TV as they round into life stages such as parenthood and home ownership, says the report.

Looking at the latest Total Audience Report, the data indicates that:

  • Teens (12-17) watched 15 hours and 29 minutes of traditional TV per week in Q1, a rather large 13.3% drop year-over-year and a 36.4% contraction over the past 5 years
  • Older Millennials (25-34) watched 23 hours and 26 minutes per week in Q1, a modest 3% decrease year-over-year but a more expansive 21.9% drop over 5 years
  • Gen Xers (35-49) watched 32 hours and 7 minutes per week, just a 2.4% decrease year-over-year but an 11.7% decline over a 5-year period
  • Adults aged 50-64 watched 44 hours and 6 minutes per week, representing a 0.6% increase year-over-year, though a 1.8% drop over 5 years
  • Adults aged 65 and older watched 51 hours and 32 minutes per week, up 0.6% from the previous year and up almost 5% over 5 years

The report offers another inflection point in the traditional TV versus streaming video divide: streaming services have caught up with the DVR in TV household penetration. Essentially, as on-demand viewing behavior grows, it’s trending more towards streaming services than towards time-shifted TV, says the report.

For the first time, in Q1 2016, streaming video services were in 50% of US TV households. That’s up 8% points from just a year earlier. By contrast, DVR penetration has remained flat at 49-50% for the past 6 quarters.

With that in mind, says the report, reports are coming out suggesting that streaming video has supplanted linear TV as the dominant form of video consumption among youth:

  • A survey from Deloitte finds 19-25-year-olds estimating that they spend 39% of their TV content time watching streaming video as opposed to 29% watching live programming, with streaming (31%) also ahead of live viewing (28%) among 26-32-year-olds
  • A Defy Media study [pdf] similarly suggests that 13-24-year-olds are spending more time with “free” and subscription digital video than with TV

This data seems to lend support to the notion that digital video is complementing more than replacing traditional TV, as total video hours continue to grow. The alternative view is, of course, that if almost 40% of youths’ traditional TV viewing has migrated to other activities, the most likely destination is streaming video.

N.B.The report in large part concerns “traditional TV” viewing, which averages out all live and DVR/time-shifted TV viewing (such as video-on-demand) during each quarter. As such, it is a measure of legacy TV viewing on set-top boxes, and does not include viewing via connected TV devices. While DVR and time-shifted TV viewing is growing, it still represents only a fraction of total “traditional TV” viewing. For example, among the total 18-24 population, weekly live TV viewing averaged 14 hours and 48 minutes per week in Q1 2016, while DVR and time-shifted TV viewing averaged 1-and-a-half hours per week.

For additional information about this study, please visit here.

Finally, MarketingCharts’ latest media study – 2015 US Media Audience Demographics – is available, offering a look at the composition (by age, income and race/ethnicity) of various media audiences, including broadcast TV, cable TV, and online TV viewing.




2 comments about "40% Of Youths' TV Viewing Migrates To Streaming Video".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 14, 2016 at 10:17 a.m.

    Jack, if you are going to use Nielsen data for traditional TV viewing, why not cite the same source for video on PCs and video on smartphones? The latest Nielsen report covering the first quarter of 2016 indicates that the average 18-24-year-old in its panel watched 17 hours and 48 minutes of "linear TV per week , counting live and delayed exposures. By comparison, the same panelists devoted only 2 minutes and one second to videos on their PCs and 54 minutes to shartphone videos. As for SVOD, that's another issue entirely. Until Nielsen starts providing more definitive information on such activities, by demographics, we wont have a good fix on the extent of whatever viewer "migration" is taking place and exactly where it is going. I suspect that long form SVOD not short-form videos on PCs and smartphones, is having a major impact, however.
    dMoreover, the data do not support the claim that 40% of traditional TV usage among the 18-24s has migrated to

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 14, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.

    Please ingore the last bit starting with "dMoreover----" in my comment. I was editing out some garbled words and this portion accidently remained in my post.

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